Recently, I was asked to submit a proposal for work with an existing client. The work broadened their horizons, pushing both their approach and my creativity. After learning their scope of work (boundaries and constraints), budget, and time frame, I submitted a proposal.
As is the case sometimes, the company chose a different consultant. In fact, I was pretty sure they had someone else in mind to do the work when I held conversations with them. What is important to learn is not just what the winning bid was but who was the competition.
Elements of Competition
Competition as a consultant, a product development professional, or engineering manager is not always obvious. Our response to competition is part of our organizational strategy. As I say over and over again, strategies overarching framework for innovation. Strategy defines who we are as an organization and directs our actions. So, the first element of competition is strategy.
Strategy seems simple. Just decide what you’re going to do. Yet, in product innovation, strategy is more than that. Our organizational mission drives decisions and rate of technical expansion. Our values direct how we interact in marketplaces. Our vision determines how aggressive we are in development.
Strategy also determines the tactics of everyday business life. How big is the budget? How many resources are committed to R&D? What is our quality goal? Spend some time on your strategy to be successful. Learn more in our Exclusive Strategy Reset Workshop here.
The second element of competition is presence. Though it is annoying, campaign posters and yard signs spring up every election season. Why? Name recognition results in votes. You may not know the candidate’s stand on a policy, but you’ve seen his face on a campaign poster and you know his name. The same goes with real estate agents and personal injury lawyers. Their advertising – including billboards, television spots, and newspaper ads – all include a photograph. When we see a face, we know they are present.
In product development, we must establish presence by interacting with our customers on a regular basis. They know us, trust us, and give us feedback. Working directly with customers in co-creation leads to competitive advantage.
Do you have presence in your industry?
Another element of competition is willingness. Some of you might remember that willingness is my word of the year for 2021 (read more here). Willingness means acceptance and patience while being bold and courageous at the same time. Willingness also means working in areas that are strategically aligned with business goals and objectives. The work that my existing client was seeking was work I was willing to do. My competition was also willing to do it. But there are hundreds of consultants who would have said “no” right off the bat.
It is important in product innovation to know what you’re willing to do – again, what is the strategy? If your organizational vision is to serve a global market, you might turn away local-only product development effort. If your mission statement includes “being a cost leader” you are putting reasonable boundaries on the target customer.
Determine your markets and willingness to serve them. Focus on design and development for product innovation where the organization is willing and able to work profitably.
In thinking about who is your competition, you want to also consider capacity to do project work. If your design team is stretched thin on multiple next generation products already, should you enter another competitive market? On the other hand, if your products are entering maturity and decline phases in the product life cycle, should you strategically increase capacity and R&D?
While your organizational capacity to take on new product development innovation work is different than your competitors, you must gauge their approach versus market growth. A tool that I love for this is the SWOT analysis – strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. It’s a simple way to thoroughly analyze internal capabilities and consider external factors impacting business growth.
Understand your Competition
Competition comes at us from known sources and unexpected places. Taking a look at the four key elements of competition can help you be more successful in product innovation (and save both time and money!). First, be firm in your strategy – what are you doing, how are you doing it, and why are you doing it?
Next, understand that a market presence gives the impression of a competitive advantage. If your customers are involved with you in product development, you will shorten project development times and achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction. Then, determine your willingness to design and develop new products within various target markets. In some situations, leave the new products to competitors – especially if they do not align with your strategy. Finally, if you’ve got strategic alignment, market presence, and a willingness to do the work, check your capacity. Hiring and training more staff for new product development projects might be viewed as expensive but you don’t want to miss any key opportunities!
If you want to learn how to implement effective strategic goals to beat the competition, please join me for the Exclusive Reset Your Strategy Workshop on Monday, 15 March (Part 1) and on Monday, 22 March 2021(Part 2). Special discounts for the unemployed as you navigate new competition. Contact me at [email protected] for more information.
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I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at [email protected] or area code 281 + phone 787-3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.